The community represented in Acts 2 reminds me of an illustration I recently read in a book. The author spoke about the giant Redwoods just outside of San Francisco in the Armstrong Redwood National State Reserve. These Redwoods extend skyward over a football field in length. They have stood for centuries despite heavy storms coming through the region. The way they have been able to face storm after storm after storm without toppling over has to do with their root system. When you read about their roots, you learn that they are only about 12 feet under the surface. While 12 foot is not shallow, it doesn’t seem deep enough to hold a tree 100 or more yards in height in the ground against fierce winds. On it’s own it probably wouldn’t. But the giant Redwoods aren’t standing on their own. If you were to scrap back the earth, you would see an intertwined network of roots. The Redwoods are able to stand because they live in community with one another. In other words, they depend on one another for strength. What they couldn’t do on their own, they are able to do in community. So that’s how they have been able to stand for 100’s of years despite the storms Mother Nature throws at them.
Likewise, the only way we are going to be able to endure the storms of life and thrive as God has intended us to is by living in authentic and interdependent community with one another. In other words, our spiritual roots must not just extend deep but also wide. We must be connected with and depend on our fellow believers around us. If not, we aren’t going to stand when the storms of life come at us. Instead we will fall. We need one another. We need to live in authentic and interdependent community with one another.
What does that look like live in authentic and interdependent community?
II. What does it look like for us to live in interdependent community? (vs. 44-47)
Starting in verse 44 we read,
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)
What I want to draw your attention to in these verses is the word “together”. It appears in verses 44 and 46. While this word is translated as the same word in English, it’s actually two different words in the Greek. As you can guess, these two words mean two different things.
In verse 44, the Greek is epi and it has to do with physical location. What that tells us is that these early Christians lived in the same place.
A. They lived in close proximity to one another.
This wasn’t a small community. In verse 41, we learn that 3,000 people were initially saved at Peter’s preaching during Pentecost. Some, I presume, went back to their towns, but others stayed in Jerusalem. Along with those who initially believed, we also learn in verse 47 that others were being added to the church each and everyday. So this was quite a large community of Christians living together with one another. I’m not exactly sure what that first community’s living quarters looked like. But what I do know is that they sold their possessions and moved so that they could live in close proximity to one another.
Now, I don’t think this means that we all have to sell our houses, secure a plot of land somewhere, and build our own community. Although, I know some of my church members wouldn’t be opposed to some folks buying and building across the street here, since they have land for sale. While they will gladly sell you a plot of land, I don’t believe that’s what Acts is teaching.
Acts is mainly a descriptive, not a prescriptive text. In other words, more often than not it tells us what the early church did and not necessarily what we must do. I believe that is the case in this text. God through the writing of Luke is calling us to do something but it’s not to move on to the same plot of land together. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with that. There are families in our church that do live on the same plot of land. If anything that can be very beneficial. I’m sure the families here would agree. But that is not what God is calling us to do — that part is descriptive.
That, however, doesn’t mean God isn’t calling us to do something. We have the book of Acts for a reason even if it is written in more of a descriptive fashion. What I believe that we, as 21st century Christians, are to take from this is that:
B. The church we are involved in and its members should be local to us.
In other words, it should be in the same community in which we live. We should be able to “run into” other church members while we are out and about.
That means then that we shouldn’t be members of a church that is located outside of our community just because it is the popular church in the area or we like the speaker. No, we must live in proximity to those with whom we attend church. That makes sense if we are going to genuinely devote our lives to one another. That’s hard to do if we don’t ever see one another. Or if it is a burden or hassle to get together with one another. So we must live in close proximity to one another, just as those in the early church did. In other words, the church we attend must be local.
That idea that we must be a part of a local church gains even more traction when we consider the second “together” used in these verses. It is found in verse 46. It is the Greek word homothumadon. Literally this word means to have the same fiery passion. It’s to be intensely unified with another like fans who cheer on their home team.
I know most of you in Decatur like football. Even if you don’t, being from Decatur, you probably still attend the Homecoming festivities — the parades, pep rallies, and the game. Those who attend those activities don’t sit there half asleep. They engage, they cheer, they root for the home team. If you were to take a step back and get a birds eye view of the stands, especially if Decatur was driving down the field for the winning touch down, you would see a fiery passion, a sense of unity among the fans. That fiery passion, that unity that draws you together is the idea that this word is trying to convey. This is why some translations translate it as “one accord.”
But this word doesn’t just carry the idea of being in one accord with other spectators at a sporting event. It goes much deeper than that. It carries the idea that we are to be together, in one accord with one another, on a deep spiritual and emotional level. What this word tells us then is that:
C. We are to live interdependently.
Living interdependently means that we are together in both proximity and in dependent community.
Think about the example of the Redwoods that I opened with. They exist in proximity to one another, as well as they depend on one another. They live in interdependent community. That’s how the first church lived. That’s how we are to live as well.
Now, living in interdependent community of course means that we live in proximity to one another. But:
Interdependent community takes us much deeper than proximity.
Even though proximity is associated with interdependent community. To a certain extent living in proximity is easy to attain. All it takes is for us to live in the same community and attend the same local church on a regular basis. Proximity is really nothing more than seeing one another, saying hey, shaking hands, sitting in the same Sunday School class and sanctuary together. So achieving proximity is really not all that difficult. But it is the first and a necessary step to living in interdependent community.
That tells us, then, that
We can’t just stop at proximity, we have to keep going until we also are living lives that are depending on one another for growth and godliness.
We need to get to a place where we believe that we need each other in order to grow in Christ, that we need more than just Jesus, a Bible, and a quiet a place. Don’t get me wrong, we need time alone with Jesus. We need our time in the Word and in prayer, but we also need one another. We have to recognize that or we will never live in interdependent community with one another. We will never see the value of asking someone else to pray for us. We will never see the value of asking another to hold us accountable. We will never see the value of getting together with one another in Bible Study. We will never see the value of serving one another by using our spiritual gifts.
So we must get to a place where we believe that we need one another in order to grow in Christ and accomplish our mission as the Church. I’m not talking about a physical need. Certainly, we need others to help us with things. We need people who are willing and able to cook meals for those who can’t do it on their own. We need people to go and fix things at other people’s houses. We need others to give us a ride at times. We need each other physically.
But we also need to go deeper than that, so that we recognize the fact that we need each other spiritually. The first church saw that need, and that’s what drove them to sell everything, to move in with one another, and to gather together on a daily basis to not only fulfill the physical but the spiritual as well. They saw their need for one another. If we want to be a growing vibrant church that is making disciples, we must see that need and we must allow others to meet that need.
Questions for Reflection
- Do we see a need for one another?
- Are we willing to be open and transparent so that others can fulfill that need?
Next time, I’ll focus on how we are to live in interdependent community with one another.
Post developed from my sermon In what type of community must the church live?